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Changing Regulation of Surface and Groundwater Resources in the Hardrock Mining Industry

Joseph H. Baird and Michael C. Creamer, Proceedings of 40th Annual Rocky Mountain Mineral Law Institute (1994)

To state that the regulation of surface and groundwater affecting the hardrock1 mining industry is currently in flux merely describes what has been the chronic state of affairs for the mining industry over the last thirty years. The adjustments necessary to bring the operating practices of an industry that has its technical roots stretching back over a hundred years into conformance with the contemporary environmental [11-3] ethic has been an expensive and often frustrating process for all concerned. The expense, and at times the frustration, have by now become just another part of doing business for the mining industry and, in general terms, the trend toward comprehensive surface and groundwater quality regulation is now fairly well plotted. The more remarkable aspect of ground and surface water quality regulation at mine sites today is the accelerated pace at which both federal and state agencies have asserted additional regulatory control over industry practices affecting water quality. Whether it is in the area of storm water discharges, water quality-based standards for toxic pollutants, or increased protection of groundwater resources environmental management planning time lines are shrinking.

This paper examines several of the most significant recent developments in water quality regulation affecting the hardrock mining industry, places them into a historical r